Synopsis: An honest pastor discovers a dark and twisted underworld as he searches for answers regarding the brutal murder of his daughter. An original soundtrack and appearances from the biggest names in rock music set the tone for this horror thriller that reveals a game of revenge with new rules.
The Retaliators opens with two young girls lost in the middle of the forest. As they try to find their way back, their vehicle is attacked by a horde of bloodied individuals who look like the living dead. A third character barely has time to explain to them that it is not about zombies that they are murdered with a lot of hemoglobin effusions. After which, the film really starts in a totally different context: the organization of Christmas Eve in a quiet village. The events that connect this introduction to the rest of the plot will only be revealed during the last minutes, after a cascade of twists and turns. The narrative distance does not prevent this introduction from saying a lot about the intentions underlying the feature film. First, note the regressive pleasure with which the two girls are killed. Then, the fact that the killers are presented as not being zombies whereas they display all the attributes of zombies announces a mixture of genres which makes that The Retaliators is never really what it seems: detective, slasher, mafia, horror, and several other genres follow one another, brewing a whole imaginary of bis cinema. It must be announced from the outset, the film does not shine by its subtlety. Its bloodthirsty serial killers, hyper-manly biker gang, and warrior priest seem straight out of the mind of a rebellious teenager. Impression reinforced by the very grandiloquent use of music, by the rather heavy integration of a few naked female bodies, or by the almost parodic seriousness with which the actors take charge of their caricatural characters. But this form of immaturity that does not bother with good taste also has its advantages. Starting with the uninhibited action scenes that happily indulge in all kinds of dismemberment by spilling hectoliters of blood in the process. Those who come looking for gore in The Retaliators will be widely served.
More tendentiously, the film also allows itself to be an ode to unbridled male violence that regularly flirts with anachronism. The inner journey of Pastor Bishop, the main character, is effectively based on unlearning the Judeo-Christian rule “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, give it to them again”, replaced by a kind of retaliation law “If we hit you, hit back”. Whether on the place of women or the question of the reintegration of criminals, the film multiplies the taking of dubious positions.
However, it would be counterproductive to hold it against him, as he never talks about the world, but rather recycles series B clichés without questioning them. If he seems to be talking incoherently, it’s first of all that he never talks about anything. We don’t count the films that turn out to be silly because they failed. The Retaliators is meanwhile successful and stupid. Successful because stupid, in the sense that he places his references as a screen between him and reality, which opens up the field of possibilities very widely.
Despite resources that we guess are limited, Samuel Gonzalez Jr. and Bridget Smith have managed to develop a game of massacre that feeds on clichés with contagious sincerity. None of what they stage revolutionizes the genre, but nevertheless shows a real guideline: a series of wobbly but audacious ideas, linked by aberrant reversals of situations and punctuated by unbridled confrontations. In this, their success is undeniable, and despite several sometimes embarrassing road trips, we can only come out sated with this feast of unreasonable images.
- THE RETALIATORS
- Theatrical release: September 15, 2022
- Directed by: Samuel Gonzalez Jr., Bridget Smith
- With: Michael Lombardi, Marc Menchaca, Joseph Gatt, Katie Kelly, Abbey Hafer, Jacoby Shaddix, Brian O’Halloran, Shannan Wilson, Zoltan Bathory, Ivan L. Moody
- Screenplay: Darren Geare, Jeff Allen Geare
- Producers: Allen Kovac, Michael Lombardi, Mike Walsh
- Photography : Joseph Hennigan
- Assembly : Randy Bricker
- Decorations: Shawn Sieger, Fernando Valdes
- Costumes: Brittany Ann Cormack
- Music : Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein
- Distribution : Better Noise Film
- Duration: 1h50